Did You Fix the Trip-Up or the Trip-Over?

Trigger Question #38

A wise manager will always look at both sides of behavior: did they trip by themselves or were they pushed by the situation?

. . .

Picture this. You are walking down the street when you see someone trip in front of you. “What a clumsy clot,” you think. (Yes, you do!) And then you trip on the same spot. What do you think now?

Of course, you are not a clumsy clot. There must be something wrong with the sidewalk. Or something on the sidewalk. Or the Invisible Man shoved you.

Actually, you have just made a fundamental attribution error.

We tend to explain other people’s behavior in terms of internal (or dispositional) causes rather than in terms of external (or situational) causes. We assume the tripper is clumsy instead of assuming she tripped over something. We blame an obstacle when we trip instead of blaming ourselves for being clumsy.

We focus on people’s overt actions, while treating the context in which the action takes place as less important.

Why do we do this? Because we take the easy way. We are mentally lazy.

Now picture this. You are back at your office and you find out that someone did something not quite right. Do you now assume that the person is an idiot? Or do you consider the possible impact of external causes? Like your company’s creaking systems, outdated policies, and restrictive procedures.

A wise manager will always look at both sides of behavior. Did they trip by themselves or were they pushed by the situation?

If they tripped up, your job is to correct the person by giving them feedback, training, guidance, coaching, whatever. But if they tripped over something, your job is to fix the environment (policies, procedures, systems, culture, expectations, whatever).

Whether dispositional or situational, it is still your problem to fix.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.

. . .